MUTTON, Peter (1562-1637), of Lleweni, Denb. and Lincoln's Inn, London

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. 7 Sept. 1562, o.s. of John Mutton of Rhuddlan, Flints. and Anne Wen, da. of Griffith ap Ieuan ap Llewelyn Vaughan of Plas yn Llannerch, Lleweni, Denb.1 educ. ?St. Alban Hall, Oxf. 1583, aged 18; Furnival’s Inn; L. Inn 1586, called 1594.2 m. (1) settlement 16 Nov. 1604 (with £700 and £50 a year), Ann, da. of George Willmer of West Ham, Essex, 2da.;3 (2) 26 Mar. 1623, Eleanor (d. 17 Dec. 1643), da. of Edmund Williams of Cochwillan, Caern., wid. of Evan Griffith of Pengwern, Flints., s.p.4 suc. fa. 1565; uncle Edward Griffith 1601.5 kntd. 5 June 1622.6 d. 14 Nov. 1637.7 sig. Pe[ter] Mutton.

Offices Held

J.p. Denb., Flints. 1602-d., Anglesey, Caern., Merion. 1622-d.;8 commr. subsidy Denb., Flints. 1608, 1621-2, Anglesey, Caern., Denb., Flints., Merion. 1624, Flints. 1626, aid, Denb. and Flints. 1609, Denb. 1612;9 member, Council in the Marches by 1617-d.;10 freeman, Caernarvon, Caern. 1624;11 commr. subsidy arrears, Anglesey, Caern., Denb., Flints., Merion. 1626, Forced Loan 1626-7, piracy, N. Wales 1631.12

Prothonotary and clerk of Crown (jt.), Denb. and Mont. 1605-d.;13 att.-gen., Council in the Marches 1607-14;14 bencher, L. Inn 1622-d.;15 c.j., N. Wales 1622-d.;16 master in Chancery (extraordinary) 1624-d.;17 kpr. of Black Bk., L. Inn 1634-5.18


Originally from Shropshire, Mutton’s ancestors settled in the borough of Rhuddlan, Flintshire in the fourteenth century. Like most English immigrants, they intermarried with native families, and Mutton himself was fluent in Welsh, his letter to his mother on the occasion of his first marriage being one of the earliest surviving examples of the written vernacular.19 At his death in 1565 Mutton’s father shared his Flintshire estate of 2,000 acres between his legitimate son and his bastard daughter.20 In 1601 Mutton inherited nearly 2,000 acres in Denbighshire from his maternal uncle Edward Griffith, a substantial estate, but hardly sufficient to explain his return as knight of the shire in 1604. His chief attraction as a candidate may have been the fact that he was a newcomer to county politics, and had not been involved in the previous election of 1601, which had seen a violent contest between Sir John Salusbury† and Sir Richard Trevor†. Consequently, although he was probably put forward by Salusbury, his neighbour at Lleweni, his nomination would not necessarily have been viewed as a provocation by the Trevors.21

Mutton was not a prominent Member in 1604-10: he is not recorded to have spoken, and he missed the last six weeks of the second session, having been given leave of absence on 10 Apr. 1606. Thereafter he may have been only infrequently in attendance at Westminster, as he received only one mention in the Commons’ Journal in 1607 (6 Mar.) and just three in the spring of 1610 (17 Apr., 19 Apr., 8 May); other evidence also places him at Westminster in May 1610, when Lord President [Ralph] Eure† sought his advice about complaints from tenants of Welsh Crown lands. He left no trace on the sparse records of the fifth session, and almost certainly missed the opening, as he attended a funeral in Bodfari, Flintshire only two days before the session began.22 Little of Mutton’s recorded parliamentary activity in 1604-10 concerned important issues: he was named to attend the conference with the Lords of 14 Apr. 1604, at which James’s initial plans for Union were unveiled; in the following month he was one of a large number of Members held in readiness to testify about the abuses of purveyors ‘either by experience in their own particular or by the testimony of their country neighbours’; and two years later he was added to the committee for the recusancy bill (27 Mar. 1606). As a Welsh lawyer he had an interest in the bill to exclude the Marcher shires from the jurisdiction of the Council in the Marches (21 Feb. 1606), and his repeated nomination to the committees for William Waller’s estate bill suggests that he may have been retained by one of the parties (2 June 1604, 27 Feb. 1606, 6 Mar. 1607).23

Like most lawyers, Mutton built up his practice through local contacts. His neighbour Thomas Salusbury of Galltfaenan, Denbighshire sought his advice in 1609, and subsequently appointed him a trustee of his estates. The most important of Mutton’s early clients was Sir Thomas Myddelton I*: in 1604 he tried to arrange a marriage between Myddelton’s daughter and the heir of Sir John Wynn† of Gwydir, and it seems to have been largely through his efforts that the girl was matched with his neighbour Harry Salusbury of Lleweni in 1606.24 In 1605 Mutton was joined with John Panton* as prothonotary of Denbighshire and Montgomeryshire. The latter, whose family came from Henllan, only four miles from Lleweni, was secretary to lord chancellor Ellesmere (Sir Thomas Egerton†) and probably held the office as a sinecure. Panton subsequently used Mutton to further his wider interests in North Wales: Mutton was commissioned to take Chancery depositions on behalf of Panton’s brother in 1610; and in 1622 he unsuccessfully sought to match one of Panton’s daughters with Sir Roger Mostyn’s* heir. Mutton and Panton also joined their neighbour John Lloyd, registrar of St. Asaph diocese, in securing the wardship of Lloyd’s grandson John Price of Rhiwlas, Merioneth in 1613. Mutton arranged the latter’s marriage to one of the daughters of his Lincoln’s Inn colleague William Jones I*, and took over the administration of Lloyd’s estate after the latter’s death in 1615.25

Mutton’s connection with Ellesmere, through Panton, may have provided the patronage he needed to succeed John Walsgrove alias Fleet† as attorney-general of the Council in the Marches in 1607. As the post entailed regular attendance at Ludlow, he was obliged to reduce his practice in London to the extent that he almost forfeited his chambers at Lincoln’s Inn, which may help to explain why he resigned the attorneyship in 1614. He subsequently maintained his links with Ludlow, becoming a member of the Council in the Marches in 1617, and using the court himself in a dispute over his family’s burial rights at Rhuddlan church in 1621.26

Ellesmere’s death in 1617 robbed Mutton of his most important patron, but Sir John Wynn, one of his clients since 1615, put him in contact with another in the shape of Wynn’s former protégé John Williams, dean of Westminster, who sought his advice over the settlement of his estates at Cochwillan, Caernarvonshire in 1620. Shortly after Williams became lord keeper in 1621, Sir John Wynn’s son Owen reported that Mutton was ‘not so grateful with my lord [keeper] as it is thought in our country; he might well have stayed at home for any gain he gets by his practice’.27 Owen Wynn was proved wrong in May 1622, when Williams appointed Mutton chief justice of the North Wales assize circuit, but some months later he noted that Mutton had been forced to share the profits of his office with the second justice, Edward Littleton II*. By then Owen Wynn and Mutton had become rivals for the hand of the lord keeper’s widowed sister. Williams, who was probably reluctant to offend either man, temporized for several months, and the issue was eventually decided by his sister, who accepted Mutton’s proposal and was married at St. Asaph on 26 Mar. 1623.28

Mutton did not stand for re-election as knight for Denbighshire: his patron Sir John Salusbury died in 1612, and the latter’s son put himself forward for the seat in 1614. He is not known to have sought election to the 1621 Parliament either, but in December 1623 Owen Wynn promised him the Gwydir interest if he resolved to stand for Caernarvonshire. As the Wynns had suffered a crushing defeat in 1621, the offer was less generous than it seemed, but Mutton was ultimately brought in for the borough seat with the backing of two of the corporation officials, the Wynns’ allies Sir William Thomas and William Griffith.29 According to Henry Wynn*, Mutton’s only recorded speech during the session had an unhappy outcome. On 5 Apr., during a debate on the charges against lord treasurer Middlesex (Sir Lionel Cranfield*), Sir Edward Coke* attacked Middlesex for allowing his clerk to use a dry stamp of his signature on official letters. Mutton defended the treasurer, claiming that ‘he had heard before he was born [sic] that stamps were used here in this kingdom’, at which ‘the whole House laughed and hissed’, while Coke compounded his discomfiture by addressing him as ‘Sir Peter Stamp’.30 Aside from this intervention, Mutton was named to committees for various bills, several of which concerned Welsh issues: repeal of the prerogative clause in the 1536 Act of Union (6 Mar.); Lady Bulkeley’s estate bill for lands in Caernarvonshire and Anglesey (13 Apr.); and the Edwards decree bill, confirming the settlement of an estate in Flintshire and Denbighshire (16 April).31

Towards the end of the parliamentary session Mutton upset the Wynns by signing Sir Eubule Thelwall’s* petition against a proposed grant of the Welsh greenwax fines to (Sir) Richard Wynn*, an offence he compounded while on circuit in August 1624 by searching for precedents to use in this case at the Caernarvon Exchequer.32 However, the Wynns could hardly afford to bear a grudge against a circuit judge, and Mutton confidently solicited their support at the general election of May 1625. Lord Keeper Williams initially proposed to nominate Mutton for Denbighshire, but by the time Mutton visited Gwydir on 6 Apr. three candidates had already come forward for this seat, and Sir John Wynn had pledged his support to one of them; in these circumstances, Caernarvonshire appeared a much more attractive prospect. Having secured Wynn’s backing, Mutton wrote to Thomas Glynne, knight of the shire in 1624, who, he claimed, ‘at the last Parliament told me that if any of my friends had desired the place for me he would have yielded with many protestations of his love and respect unto me’. Glynne, who did not consider himself bound by what had clearly been no more than a casual pleasantry, resolved ‘to stand for the place against wind and weather’, and lambasted Mutton for not being a freeholder. It is likely that Glynne’s chief objection to Mutton’s candidacy was the fact that he had implicitly allied himself with the Gwydir faction by appealing first to Wynn for support. Mutton may have hoped to carry the election by stealth at the county court on 13 Apr., where ‘less than twenty men upon that sudden would have carried away the place of knightship’, but the election writ did not arrive until the following day, and he subsequently retired to Lleweni, whence he informed Wynn that ‘I will not go a-begging for it [the election]’. His attitude disheartened his supporters, and it is not known whether his name was actually put forward at the election on 11 May.33

Lord Keeper Williams’ dismissal in November 1625 undoubtedly harmed Mutton’s chances of finding a parliamentary seat thereafter; not surprisingly, he seems to have been unwilling to try his chances at Caernarvonshire in 1626. He was ultimately co-opted to the Lords as a legal assistant, a last-minute appointment which required him to resign his scheduled appointment as reader at Lincoln’s Inn. His services were little used: he carried two bills down to the Commons (19 May, 10 June), and on 13 June he was appointed to take the depositions of witnesses for the earl of Bristol (Sir John Digby*) in the latter’s impeachment case.34 Although not required to serve as a legal assistant in 1628, Mutton had no-one to turn to for a parliamentary seat, as the Gwydir faction were weaker than ever following the death of Sir John Wynn in 1627.

Mutton continued as chief justice until his death, but without Williams’ patronage he can have had few hopes of further promotion. His prime concern in his later years was the preferment of his two daughters. The elder was married to Robert Davies of Gwysaney, Flintshire, who became heir to Mutton’s estates, and the younger to Kenrick Eyton† of Eyton, Denbighshire, for whom he secured a reversion of the prothonotaryship of Denbigh and Montgomery. Mutton died at Lleweni on 14 Nov. 1637, and was buried at Henllan five days later.35 His grandson Mutton Davies was returned to the Commons for Flintshire three times in the 1670s.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. C142/237/121/2.
  • 2. Al. Ox.; LI Admiss.; LI Black Bks. ii. 35.
  • 3. Flints. RO, D/GW/B 11.
  • 4. SP17/9, f. 3v; P. Roberts, Y Cwtta Cyfarwydd ed. D.R. Thomas, 91-2, 209; J.E. Griffith, Peds. Anglesey and Caern. Fams. 186.
  • 5. C142/237/121/2.
  • 6. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 178.
  • 7. C142/592/81.
  • 8. JPs in Wales and Monm. ed. Phillips, 9-10, 27-9, 45-8, 63-72, 100-8.
  • 9. SP14/31/1; E179/283/12; 179/220/192; C212/22/20-23; NLW, Bettisfield 904.
  • 10. NLW, 9056E/809; Eg. 2882, f. 163.
  • 11. Flints. RO, D/GW/2128.
  • 12. E179/224/598; T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 146; C181/4, f. 95v.
  • 13. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 231; 1636-7, p. 215.
  • 14. Eg. 2882, ff. 70, 81.
  • 15. LI Black Bks. ii. 228.
  • 16. C66/2271/1; 66/2272/8.
  • 17. C216/1/91.
  • 18. LI Black Bks. ii. 320.
  • 19. DWB (Peter Mutton); Welsh Language before the Industrial Rev. ed. G.H. Jenkins, 194.
  • 20. C142/144/28; 142/237/121/2.
  • 21. PROB 11/98, ff. 341-2; C142/592/81; STAC 5/T15/33; DENBIGHSHIRE.
  • 22. CJ, i. 296a, 349b, 418b, 419a, 426a; SP14/54/33; Roberts, 19.
  • 23. CJ, i. 172a, 202a, 231a, 272b, 275a, 296a, 349b; HLRO, O.A. 4 Jas.I, c. 28.
  • 24. Denb. RO, DD/GA/600, 869, 992; NLW, 9052E/290, 300; Cal. Salusbury Corresp. ed. W.J. Smith (Univ. Wales Bd. of Celtic Studs. Hist. and Law ser. xiv), 51.
  • 25. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 231; NLW, 9054E/553; WARD 9/162, f. 162; Griffith, 247; C2/Chas.I/W93/52.
  • 26. Eg. 2882, ff. 70, 81; LI Black Bks. ii. 161; HMC 6th Rep. 423-4.
  • 27. NLW, 9055E/709; 9056E/778, 847; 9056E/890, 926; 9057E/988.
  • 28. C66/2272/8; NLW, 9058E/1038, 1046, 1062-3, 1067, 1069-70; Roberts, 91-2.
  • 29. NLW, 9059E/1178, 1189; Flints. RO, D/GW/2128.
  • 30. NLW, 9059E/1209. The incident can be dated from ‘Pym 1624’, f. 49.
  • 31. CJ, i. 730a, 764b, 768a.
  • 32. NLW, 9059E/1228; 9060E/1276.
  • 33. Procs. 1625, pp. 672-8, 684.
  • 34. LI Black Bks. ii. 260; Procs. 1626, i. 501, 602, 615.
  • 35. C142/592/81; CSP Dom. 1636-7, p. 215; Roberts, 175; SP17/9, f. 3v.